How do I know if I have a drinking problem?

The presence of a drinking problem can be determined by the CAGE questionnaire, a four-item screening test that can help identify alcohol abuse or alcoholism. This questionnaire can take just one minute to administer to most people and include the following questions:

1. Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
2. Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
3. Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye opener)?

Responding "yes" to the eye-opener question alone can be used by clinicians as a positive to the questionnaire. Although, two or more affirmative responses can also suggest that one is a problem drinker and may require medical assistance to address the issue.

Abimbola Farinde, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
Private Practice

Before I got sober, I always tried to find loopholes in online tests asking the same question. I would make jokes about how everyone feels some remorse after a night of heavy drinking and justify why everyone around me thought I drank too much. My life was dwindling down the drain because of everything in it—not because I was drinking. It's hard to take a test seriously when you have so many reservations and reasons as to why you definitely aren't an alcoholic.

It wasn't until after I had been arrested for a DUI, forged AA meetings, lied to the judge and spent a week in jail that I finally realized that maybe—just maybe—my drinking was a small part of the problem. I began going to meetings and actually listening. Finally, I was able to see the truth in the following statement: "If your drinking is causing you problems, then you have a drinking problem." In other words, you don't have to lose your home or ruin your marriage to identify an alcohol addiction—but you will lose those things if you continue drinking.

If you're asking yourself if you have a drinking problem, consider these things: has anyone else noticed your drinking? Do you regretfully wake up each morning after you've been drinking? Do you engage in activities that you would never do sober? Is work interfering with your drinking schedule?

Social drinkers don't sit around wondering if they have a drinking problem—but alcoholics often find themselves making excuses for their poor behavior, defending their drinking habits and insisting that they can quit whenever they want. Social drinkers also don’t need to “control their drinking.” In fact, if you're trying to control it, then you've already lost control. Whether you identify yourself as an alcoholic or are questioning whether or not you have a drinking problem, remember this: you don't have to quit drinking forever, you just have to try not to drink today.

Cassandra Huerta
Sober since October 2012

An individual has a drinking problem if he or she is frequently intoxicated to the point of disrupting daily functions of life, such as attending a job, school and social events. Relationships may go by the wayside to drink. It can take more and more alcohol to achieve a consistent level of intoxication due to increased tolerance. Physical appearance can decline over time as the addiction takes priority over self-care and nutrition. An alcoholic might feel defensive if he or she is frequently drinking and confronted for doing so. In extreme cases, attempts at sobriety can result in physical and mental symptoms such as shaky hands, nausea, anxiety, headaches and even hallucinations for some. Hospitalization can also occur.

Outreach Representative, Sovereign Health

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to to start the path to recovery today.

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